With their blend of rap style vocals and more traditionally Punk and Metal musical accompaniment, Rats From a Sinking Ship make for an interesting proposition. The fusion of rap with other genres has a pretty extensive history with varying degrees of success. When combined with heavier elements it can go really well, in the vein of Faith No more, Zach De la Rocha’s scathing critique of the hypocrisy of American society in Rage Against The Machine (more recently Prophets of Rage) and a number of collaborations such as Public Enemy and Anthrax on 1994’s Bring The Noise. When it doesn’t go so well it can border on the unlistenable. Fortunately RAFSS belong to the former camp, drawing on them as reference points, albeit in a distinctly more British register and with punkier overtones.
Where the two styles of Hip Hop and Punk have often been consonant is in their articulation of politicised anger at the status quo. Such galvanised fury at societal injustices is something that RFASS have in spades and Fight The Future is a record seething with contempt and vitriol. The targets of such ire are as multifarious as they are deserved, whether that be the monarchy, the military industrial complex, the demonisation and persecution of immigrants, the right wing media, or everybody’s favourite purveyor of xenophobic and fascistic commentary, the truly odious Katie Hopkins.
The focal point of their sound is the buzzsaw like guitar and the gruffly delivered lyricism of frontman Lusty. His vocal style isn’t overly fast and the enunciation is clear so that tracks don’t require multiple listens to discern what’s being said. His voice is ardent and there are some relatively complex rhymes at work across these songs. There is also an ear for some darkly humorous observations and a propensity for fitting half rhymes together in such a way that they don’t feel clunky. Musically there is a range of approaches across the breadth of Fight The Future. Some tracks are demonstrably punk and hardcore influenced, while others draw more explicitly on traditional hip hop backing. It is a blend that keeps things sonically interesting without losing the relentlessness of the overall message.
Act of Peace is the record’s opener and it starts with a pounding bass drum and chugging riff before Lusty’s vocals drop in, sounding hyped up and insistent. The whole song itself is relatively simple, allowing space for the vocals to come to the foreground. The call and response refrain of ‘we go to war’ and repetition of the phrase ‘raging and raging,’ provide a focal point around which observations on the motivation behind the facile justifications for war are anchored. ‘Love Royal, love oil, love boots on their soil.’
Monster aren’t Good For the Environment opens with the speech from Charlie Chaplin’s The Good Dictator. This is initially unaccompanied before a slow beat and guitar line, which if not a direct sample sounds very much like Black Sabbath’s Iron Man, are brought in, generating a foreboding air when combined with the speech. The song then continues making use of a slow guitar and relatively pared back drums, which allow the mid tempo lyrics to come to the fore.There are some interesting rhymes at work here as well, ‘jingoistic or cannibalistic, you don’t need to be a mystic to see they take the biscuit.’
Cursory Rhymes is structured around the inclusion of nursery rhymes altered to satirical effect. ‘Row row your boat gently cross the sea, send the gun ships sink them all they’re only refugees.’ The inclusion of ‘cursory’ in the songs title is obviously a play on the term nursery but it could also refer to the knee jerk xenophobia and jingoism that is contained within them. Much the same as reactions that are often seen from many figures in public life and media outlets, without a detailed assessment of the facts. The song is structured around an offbeat and slightly distorted guitar which allows the notes to ring out with quite a bit of space, until the final part where there is just a touch of fancier fretwork which is a good addition.
Take The Throne is a surprisingly patriotic number celebrating the joys of a new monarch’s coronation… I jest of course, it is distinctly anti royalist and has the inclusion of an amusing Frankie Boyle quote to underline this fact. Musically it has another strong central riff and the chorus part sees all the instruments tightly syncopated with the vocals. There is also a little more space here for each instrument to take centre stage, with a drum interlude and nice bass flourish later in the track.
United Hate takes aim at the UK’s continued subservience and obsequiousness in it’s relationship with America. The image of the Britain as the ‘quirky little brother’ bullied and hectored into following American whims seems apt. To the sword begins with a a funky sounding riff over a hip hop beat. This contrasts well with the heavier rabble rousing chant of ‘to the sword’ that sits at the centre of the song. Sonically it is quite different from the preceding tracks leaning much more to a hip hop style of instrumentation. This is pulled off well though and shows that the band are adept at delivering a range of accompaniments to the vocals, which remain consistent throughout.
Katie Fucking Hopkins begins with a gentle sounding guitar part and an imagined scenario where the subject of the song is a benevolent force for good. This doesn’t last long though, within a couple of bars the acoustic section ends and there is a news clip reporting her comments comparing immigrants to cockroaches. This is bolstered by a thunderous drum roll and the song launches into a hardcore inflected diatribe against the various ways in which she is generally an awful human being. The chorus pretty much sums things up ‘why’d you have to be a dick, Katie Hopkins makes me sick.’
The Loneliest Walk takes a look at the issue of mental health and how rudimentary our understanding of it is. Here again the song is structured around a hip hop style beat with some interesting variations on the snare and sparse guitar, which works well. Hated For Living has an almost grunge like air to it, the introductory bars sounding as if they could be lifted from a Vaselines track. The song is another impassioned commentary on inequality and the manner in which the ruling classes despise those who don’t happen to be quite as rich or privileged.
Penultimate track Fight The Future takes aim at pretty much all the topics previously covered, synthesising them into a list of what is wrong with our current trajectory as a nation. It then offers the rallying call to combat such a path, addressing the requirement for people to snap out of a lethargic apathy, ‘the public is too quiet, we need another riot.’ This then leads into closing track, Disgusting Filthy Rag, which takes aim at the immoral practices of that paper. It is a strong way to finish with a forceful chorus and some unusual accompaniment in the verse, which has the slight air of an old sci-fi movie score to it. This is interlaid with some sampled quotes before ending on George Galloway’s declaration that it is a ‘Sewer Rat Newspaper’; which is hard to disagree with, even if Galloway himself can be less agreeable.
Fight The Future is a varied album that blends a pretty broad range of reference points without it sounding contrived or forced. The indignation at current affairs is articulated in an often amusing, if bleak fashion. Across this album RFASS demonstrate why a healthy dose of scepticism and more than a little willingness to challenge prevalent societal trends remain a potent influence in punk. That they manage to do this is in a way that doesn’t feel hackneyed is testament to the value of adding new elements to the mix, even if depressingly the subjects tackled remain all too familiar.
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